Steps Through the Mist: A Mosaic Novel Hardcover – 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Serbian speculative fictionist Zivkovic's latest novel to be released in the U.S. (after 2006's Seven Touches of Music) isn't so much a literary work to be read as it is one to be reveled in. Like a great work of abstract art, this surrealistic novel—about five women who contend with fate in very different ways—is layered with subtle symbolism and nuance, and should be savored slowly so that the profound, and sometimes disturbing, existential underpinnings can be duly discerned. Featuring story lines about a schoolgirl who can see into other people's dreams, an institutionalized woman with the ability to know the future, a world-weary fortune teller who stumbles across true divination, a skier who's offered unconventional wisdom on a mountaintop and an elderly woman who loses her will to live when her alarm clock breaks, this montage of stories is as enlightening as it is entrancing. (Sept.)
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"Simply stated, Zoran Zivkovic is one of the most visionary and talented speculative fiction novelists in the world." —The New York Review of Science Fiction
"Ethereal and intelligent . . . Zivkovic writes novels that slot together fables in delicate layers and books that subtly re-define reality." —The Agony Column
"Each story by itself is a masterpiece in short fiction but the whole, ah the whole!" —Ideomancer
"Confirms Zivkovic's status as a master. The book's chief flaw is that there is simply not enough of it, leaving us wanting more." —Fantasy Book Spot
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Mist, the common theme, shows up as a semi-mystical element in each story. "Alarm Clock" uses it as a sort of Twilight Zone element, pulling the main character into a mystical journey into the past. Unlike Seven Touches of Music it is really difficult to pick a favorite. I really love "Alarm Clock", but "Disorder in the Head" and "Hole in the Wall" were just as entertaining. In fact, all the stories are really very good in how they incorporate mist into the stories and how different each story is. While Zoran does use a similar 'format' in how some of the stories play out, as in Seven Touches of Music, the majority of them are presented very differently. The mist theme is either a very noticeable element--integral to the story as in "Alarm Clock"--or as a side element--as in "Line of the Palm".
These stories, like Seven Touches of Music, are borderline fantasy tales. An interesting point, however, is that these are more literature than fantasy, yet they would easily please both audiences. Rather than the grandiose stories of magic and fantasy worlds, or urban worlds for that matter, we are given stories about people that might exist in our world who experience elements of the fantastic--those bizarre moments in life when something happens you just can't explain. There is a sense of wonder in each story, a sense of awe and strangeness. This is what Suvin called "cognitive estrangement", or taking something familiar and tweaking it. "Disorder of the Head", especially, shows us a familiar world in a private school--familiar in the sense that we all have some idea what a private school is like--and twists it so that it starts to become unfamiliar. This is a strong element in Zoran's stories and it is particularly noticeable in Steps Through the Mist. Add the fact that Aio Publishing has printed this collection as a gorgeous hardcover book and this becomes almost like a collectors items. Zoran has put together a wonderful set of tales, proving once again that he is an amazing prose writer and a master of the short form.
Sparely, precisely written, each of the five stories focuses on a woman at a different point in life and how she deals with a fate thrust upon her.
In the first story, there are actually two women affected - a young student and a prim, straight-backed teacher who believes she has seen everything a girl can come up with. When the girl claims the ability to share others' dreams, the teacher is forced to exert control in the only way she knows.
In the second a young woman is confronted with the ultimate nightmare - an infinite choice of futures, each infinitely clear to her, from which she must choose. In the third a middle-aged skier, freighted with choice, makes a very different decision, and in the fourth a fortuneteller confronts a very short lifeline and her own responsibility.
In the fifth story an old woman wakes to a silence that underscores her lifelong regret for a prideful, youthful impulse.
Zivkovic's stories are deceptively simple and beautifully written, touching on the connections between age, character, wisdom, experience, free will and fate while posing some very strange circumstances, ranging from fanciful to nightmarish.
This is the last mosaic novel in Zivkovic's "Impossible Stories" cycle and new readers will be likely to look for them all.